Stuff I Found

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Forget forgetfulness to improve memory

According to this article:

Scientists interested in the effects of stereotype on memory enlisted 103 seniors between 60- and 82-years-old to take a memory test. Before the test, some subjects were told that the test checked the effects of age on memory. Researchers call this a threat—it reminds participants of the stereotype.


The other group was told that the test controlled for biases. This could make them feel more secure.


The results: participants who got reminded of their age and the old age, poor memory stereotype did significantly worse.

Who woulda thunk attitude and self-expectations would have an effect on testing?!

While I think this property of human psychology is already known, it can also be easy to forget. This is why it can be dangerous for parents and teachers to negatively comment on their children's intellects; they can easily have a negative impact on their children's confidence.

Then again, parents and teachers who always say how great you are to the point of obviously not being honest, or who say how great to could be if you just tried harder, can have a negative impact too. It can be like parents and teachers hoping to encourage students by giving them a certain self-image to uphold in their mind.

Then again, for some students, that works. Some students enjoy going the extra mile to get that teacher and parental attention. It works for the same reason discouraging remarks can effect self-esteem; there's some natural part of everyone that cares about what everyone else thinks. When you become conscious of it, it becomes a mental balancing act trying to determine just how much to care about what other people think of you. People who don't care completely might never bathe and be committed to mental institutions. People who care too much make themselves miserable because they can never force others to love them, and depending on others makes them weak, takes away their ability to do anything without some sort of external approval.

When I was in college, I heard of this dancer (ballet... yuck... I'm not a ballet fan) who was supposedly very very good. She was so good that... I don't know, I just heard she was really good. And she quit dancing. Because she didn't want to do it anymore. And the teachers (according to one of my teachers) were all upset, and tried to encourage her to stay dancing. And I think a lot of people get all that positive feedback from something they're doing that they'll keep doing it even if they don't really like it, because they know if they did what they really wanted to do they might just get disappointed faces, or a lack of support, or whatever. People can easily get locked in to the images they think other people have of them. "This person thinks I'm smart; I need to uphold that image by doing such and such, even though I hate it..." Well, sorry, you're not that smart then.

Okay, I went off on a big tangent there... :-P But they're kind of related, sort of, maybe, a bit, in a way...


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